Compared to steel and paper — which have been recovered for recycling for years — plastics recycling is a relatively young industry. Plastics have only been recycled for about 10 to 15 years. Regardless, a lot has been accomplished in this time, especially with homogeneous streams of bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE). There are currently some 1,600 recyclers of PET and HDPE in North America, and Canadian recovery rates for these bottle streams are comparatively high.
Difficulty in finding end markets for other recycled resin streams, such as tubs and lids, has prevented this type of widespread recycling success. And it isn’t due to lack of effort. For over a decade, the Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC) has supported joint research and projects with plastic resin suppliers, converters, municipalities and recyclers to foster and further develop sustainable end markets. Now, thanks to persistence and innovation from one Canadian company, there are new opportunities for companies and municipalities to purchase products incorporating recycled tub material.
Haycore Canada has been a broker of recyclable materials since 1987. The company is based in Ottawa and has additional offices in Montreal and Brockville. Over the past few years, Haycore Canada has constructed a custom-built washing and processing line dedicated exclusively to tub material. Over the last couple of years demand for the company’s recycled tub material has not only kept the line busy — it has also helped create new end markets.
“The line has been built with a lot of help, both in terms of technical expertise and equipment contributions,” explains Michel Jacobs, President of Haycore Canada. “Over the years, it has slowly evolved. Today, we’re running a smooth operation that produces a very good-quality flake material.”
When the company first began selling its flake, it was limited to use as filler in various lumber products. Recent improvements to the line, however, have created a quality of material sought by many other manufacturers. Today, the flake is sold to a Montreal-based processor called Granville Composite Products Corporation. The processor uses the flake in a proprietary compression-moulding process to manufacture plastic shipping pallets. These plastic pallets can be steam cleaned and disinfected, and they’re fast drying; this makes them suitable for the food processing industry. Granville Composite Products produces several different grades of the nestable plastic pallets. The company’s single-trip export model uses exclusively tub and lid material while others use between 60 to 90 per cent of the material mixed with an assortment of other plastics such as polypropylene soft drink caps, high-density plastic bottles and thermoplastic polyolefins.
Haycore Canada also ships the tub and lid flake to Chicoutimi-based PBI Industries, which uses the material to make protective plastic, corner-edge pieces for shipping pallets. Toronto-based Buckhorn Canada, which uses 10 per cent recycled tub and lid material in their extensive line of recycling containers, is another Haycore Canada customer, as is a California-based processor.
Jacobs anticipates that as these new end markets mature and demand for the products increases, more Canadian municipalities will collect plastic tubs and lids. To facilitate this, Jacobs is interested in working with companies that can use the material. “By purchasing products that use recycled tub resin, we can increase the demand for the material and eventually open up opportunities for improving plastic tub recycling for municipalities,” he says.
The washing and processing line put together by Haycore Canada has relied upon the co-operation and support of many industry partnerships. EPIC played a part through its research studies into new end markets for tubs and film. EPIC’s ongoing work in the area of tubs and lids has shown that it’s possible to use them in other applications such as milk- and soft-drink crates, and electrical junction boxes.
“If the industry continues to work together with companies and municipalities interested in recycled material, more end markets for tubs and lids will develop naturally,” concludes Jacobs. “We’ve done some very promising ground work but there’s still a lot more to do.”
Contact Cathy Cirko, vice president, Environment & Health, Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) at firstname.lastname@example.org